Panoptical Time=Privileged Invisibility, “Clueless”


This picture represents Foucault’s interpretation of Jeremy Benthem’s architectural plan for a Panopticon- a structure that would reinforce a central control and encourage self discipline. As discussed in lecture, this type of structure was typically thought of as a good source of control for prison facilities, due to the fact that prisoners were visible in their cells at all times regardless of knowing whether someone was watching them from the Panopticon or not. The idea is that prisoners or anyone in general who thinks they are being watched will behave differently in a good way. The unknown of whether one is being watched from the Panopticon or not creates an anticipation of consequences if one was to act in an inappropriate and intolerable way. 

In connection to the idea of the panopticon, McClintock discusses the idea of panoptical time in her book Imperial Leather. In reference to panoptical time, she states that it is “the image of global history consumed-at a glance- in a single spectacle from a point of privileged invisibility” (37). This can be interpreted as due to the fact that some people come from privileged backgrounds, it causes them to rethink things in certain ways and look at things in life from a different lens than the less fortunate people in life. 

An example of this privileged invisibility reminds me of one of my all time favorite films Clueless. Cher’s father is wealthy, and has always given her what she wants so she never has to work hard for anything, also making her very oblivious to the world and other world’s outside of her own. This panotical time that McClintock refers to as “privileged invisibility” is very evident in Clueless when Cher is speaking to her cleaning lady/housekeeper Lucy, and when she cannot understand something she is saying she says, “Lucy, you know I don’t speak Mexican” and she replies “I not a Mexican”. Coming from a privileged background, Cher probably has not taken the time to get to know Lucy, and takes her housekeepers for granted or she would have known that Lucy is from El Salvador and not Mexico. Also, given the fact that she said “you know I don’t speak Mexican” makes one aware that she doesn’t know that Mexican is not an actual language, and that Cher is used to “living in a bubble” and unaware of other cultures besides her own. Coming from privileged backgrounds, it can cause individuals to be “blind” to what goes on outside of their own lives, and see things in a certain way that is uncommon from those who are not as fortunate at they are. While Lucy has probably taken the time to know a lot about Cher, it is clear that Cher has not taken the time to get to know Lucy and probably just sees her just as an employee. Privileged invisibility can cause ignorance and a viewpoint only from a single opinion, and also can cause lack of effort in getting to know other people and other cultures outside of one’s own. 

-Mallory Hart


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